Annoying Things People Say About ADHD

you-may-already-be-a-wienerThank you to readers who entered The ADHD Explosion book giveaway contest!  I am showcasing all 20 comments here, and will announce the winner at the end of this post. With any luck, people who tend to repeat these “annoying things people say about ADHD” might learn how annoying they are—and stop!
—Gina Pera

1. Janet:

The most wrong-headed but oft-repeated opinion about ADHD is that a kid diagnosed with it has an intelligence deficit and never go to college. Both my ADHD sons completed college and one has his doctorate!

2. Dr Charles Parker:

With an interesting endorsement like that I confess I can’t wait to read it! The most wrong headed statement: “ADHD does not exist because none of my clients are hyperactive.” Seriously – Duh!


Author: New ADHD Medication Rules – Brain Science & Common Sense

3. Heather:

Probably one of the things that surprises me the most is that some people think that people with ADHD can NEVER sit and focus on any one task for a large quantity of time. This is totally untrue. If it is a task that they have a interest in, they can actually hyper focus for long periods of time. My daughter will sit and draw for hours, but if she has to do a math problem she can’t stay still and focused for more then a couple minutes.

4. Mike

There are so many “dumb things (that too many) people believe about ADHD” … but they’re all so intertwined, it’s hard to pin down one without ending up telling a too-long/complex story. Where to begin?

1) That ADHD is a singular condition with a singular solution. In our experience, it’s as individual as the person … and requires deft diagnosis and medication dose-determination and monitoring — along with environmental, non-medical protocols — to “treat” so the person can learn to focus, mature and be effective, productive and, most important, happy and self-confident.

5. Danielle:

One thing I hear is people are using it on problem children so they don’t have to be parents.
But isn’t it like giving the child coffee and sugar if the child does not have ADHD?

6. Lisa:

The most common misconception I hear about ADHD is that only boys get it.

7. Kristin

As a soon to be divorced wife of a husband with ADHD, I am so thankful for each person working to better understand the mental illness. They couldn’t be more right when they say that if undiagnosed there is a price to pay. The more we talk, understand, and help people with ADD perhaps their will be fewer broken families and more healthy people and communities. Thanks to the authors and to Gina who keep the good fight so amazingly eloquent.

8. Paul:  

“ADHD is a deficit of attention.”

I am going to buy the book.
I would also love to have a free copy to give away to any person who stereotypes ADHD individuals, to the point that the label overshadows the interest of “helping” them. I have seen more than one “helper” that fits this profile.
I can best describe this in terms “caretaker over help seeker” rather than a “help provider” and/or friend.
Thanks for all you do.

9. Steve:

My best comment was sitting at the table with some family members, a large percentage of ADD’ers.
The conversation was about ADD and it’s effect on spouses.
When one of my family members with major ADD who is also a marriage counselor for over 20 years, said his ADD does not effect his wife, the look his wife gave was so great, and proved the point better than any study that is written. 
ADD is the most interesting beast!
You can have it, you can treat it, and you can still not have a clue about it!!!!
10. Leslie:

The most amazing thing I have ever heard anyone say was that they “don’t believe in ADHD”. Gosh, I had no idea if I just stop believing I had ADHD it would go away!

11. Ron:

I recently went to counseling because of all of the problems I was causing in our marriage. As much as I wanted ‘fix’ things, there always seemed to be this ‘disconnect’. Fortunately, unknown to me, my counselor is an ADHD expert who found out 25 years ago – he had ADHD.

I’m 58 and have had a life time of adapting to my ADHD which includes behaviors not good for our marriage. My wife, while open, still wonders if “it is just an excuse” to cover for behavior. This is the big misconception – that ADHD is an excuse.

For me, finding out the truth was liberating as it now gave me a basis to work from to improve behavior. I now can operate out of truth – I have a disability – and not out of frustration. With truth, I can finally be ‘really responsible’. So, I’m 2 weeks into knowing this and all of the material I have read confirm that I’m reading my life story. I can now look back into my childhood and see glimpse of ADHD – however, the glimpse doesn’t still convince my wife who thinks I may be Narcissistic, Compulsive, Impulsive, passive and all of the other ‘ive’ one could think of – individual behaviors instead of one big disability.

12. David:

I loathe the blame game: lazy parenting.

13. Emma:

Worst misconception I’ve heard is “Oh but ADHD isn’t real, it’s just bad behaviour, you need to discipline your child harder!”

I wish more people would take the time to educate themselves on things before they make wild, unsubstantiated claims. I wasn’t diagnosed until 37 and am finally learning to understand myself and why I do the things I do…finally everything makes sense! I’m also better equipped to help my child negotiate the path of ADHD, I can advocate for her, I can fight for her, because I understand her.

14. Linda

I think the misconception that people with ADHD are bouncing off the walls all the time….that’s my favorite! It’s been hard through my PhD, but I probably space out more than jump around.

15. Patty:

Would love to read this book. What I hear the most is that ADHD doesn’t exist. People just need to be more self-disciplined. Yeah, right. I wish it were that easy.

16. Me:

That the way to help a student with ADHD is to medicate him or her.

17. Karen:

The misconception that ADD looks the same in everyone is still quite prevalent. A loved one can recommend a book such as Gina’s, for example, and after reading a few pages the individual with ADD can point out how they do not behave like those described. This misconception leads to confusion in diagnosing ADD in girls, and in boys with ADD rather than ADHD. It is the cause of denial in those who cannot and will not acknowledge how their symptoms can undermine the health of the whole family. 
But one of the worst is the characterization of “lazy” by the immediate family, parents and siblings. Fifty years ago there was no talk of ADD, so those who had ADD suffered in silence not realizing why they failed at things that mattered to them. Building the foundation for denial, emotional cutoff, and fear of intimacy. And this pain is passed to the next generation, because of the denial. So tragic.

18.  Jerry:

I think the one that gets me the most, especially after opening up to someone about it, is, “Oh, everyone has ADHD…” 

19. D2:

The worst misconception I think I’ve ever heard about ADHD is that it is a gift and that I should be glad that I have it. And the worst part is, I understand why I was told this: people think my creativity and my intelligence comes from the fact that I have ADHD. I’m fairly certain that this is not the case.

While my low distraction threshold may contribute to the fact that my class notes were always more drawing than note, I really don’t appreciate being told that I couldn’t draw if I wasn’t distractible. I can draw just fine when I’m on my medication, thank you, and in fact I draw more detailed and refined pictures. And the idea that my intelligence is inextricable from my inability to hold onto a thought sounds straight out of 1984. (I read that entire book holding out for a happy ending. I got disappointment.)

Creativity and intelligence are not the same thing as having a hundred thoughts per minute– they require that you can hang on to a thought long enough to do something with it.
ADHD is not a gift, or at least not the gift that I’ve been told it is. It is not without its upsides; people think my absent-mindedness and rapid-fire way of speaking is funny and cute, like some manic-pixie-dream-girl out of a movie. I like being told that I’m funny and cute. But manic-pixie-dream-girls only function in movies, where there’s some well-grounded, usually wealthy leading man with endless patience to take care of them. These pixie girls don’t have to worry about paying off their debts or keeping a job or passing a test, and the same quirky behaviors that are adorable on the screen can really strain a relationship in real life. That, and it’s really exhausting to constantly try and spin your failings as funny and/or cute when they cause so much stress and sorrow.

20. De:

What I get is
“We all do that from time to time” (meaning forgetfulness, procrastination, daydreaming, etc…)—what makes you think you’re different?
A.D.D, is a cop out for laziness, you’re not hyper how could you possibly have ADHD”
Note: No matter how much I try to explain that I have inattentive type ADHD, my loved ones just don’t get it.

And Now for the Winner:

To make this an impartial contest, I asked my husband, who has not seen these comments, to pick a number between 1 and 20. He picked 11. Congratulations, Ron!  I’ll be in touch via e-mail!  



11 thoughts on “Annoying Things People Say About ADHD”

  1. I was recently diagnosed at 38, its been a life struggle I finally understand. I’ve been diagnosed with dysthymia, GAD, digestion issues, and chronic migraines all in the last 10 years and dealing with addictions in my earlier years.

    Finally finding out I have been struggling with ADHD.

    While it all clicked to me and finally made my life feel like I haven’t been a failure on purpose or as worthless as I have come to believe, when telling my husband, he responds that everyone must have it and he doesn’t believe in it, like it was said above, I didn’t know I could just believe it not to be and I wouldn’t have it.

    Others I’ve told always say everyone has it nowadays and its just a craze right now, which of course crushes me as it minimizes this profound new truth that now makes me feel like I am not who I have believed I was and hoped in my heart I wasn’t.

    I can’t change peoples minds, if they aren’t willing to understand it, I don’t care what they think. I am now on concerta and have never had such a “quiet” mind, energy to tackle things I struggled with for so long, and a weight lifted from a darkness I have had looming over me for so long that I am that woman I hoped I was in my heart.

    There are still so many challenges, but knowledge and understanding as been liberating despite what so many people choose to believe.

    1. Hi Janelle,

      I’m sorry your family and friends have been unsupportive, to say the least.

      As I always say, understanding ADHD requires a large amount of intelligence, empathy, and willingness to learn new things.

      Not everyone is blessed with these abilities.

      I hope that you continue your journey, with or without their support. I bet they will see changes over time, though, that will make them sit up and take notice.

      Remember, too: The incidence of ADHD is higher among first, second, and third degree relatives. So, you might be dealing with some “ADHD denial” in some family members, born of their own unrecognized ADHD.

      take care

  2. I think the most annoying for me are those who think they know everything just because they’ve read up on a few things.
    Like they try telling you how you feel, or think you’re always supposed to be overly hyper and constantly interrupting others, 9 times out of 10 I’m more likely to bugger off after 10-20 seconds of waiting for someone to stop talking because I’ve a) forgotten what I wanted to say or b) I’ve lost interest.
    And I’m not always hyper, I’ll go hours, days, weeks even where I have so much to say and have so much energy to feeling really tired and not knowing what to say to people or how to react to things like someone has suddenly switched my brain off.

  3. I hate when people think that ADHD is just “an excuse” or “being lazy” or that “everyone has it” and “it’s part of being human” It just MAKES ME FURIOUS!! Some people think that ADHD isn’t real, and I know for certain that that is NOT TRUE. I have severe ADHD and I also somewhat have anxiety, so I know what it’s like to struggle with ADHD.

    1. Hi Crystal,

      Thanks for your comment. It makes me furious, too. And it’s fueled 20 years of work. That’s how furious. 🙂


  4. Francesca Cimino

    I feel like a huge part of the problem is that not only do people believe that ADHD is just an elaborate term for laziness/disinterest, but they’re jealous because they feel we’re copping out by being able to apply this “blanket” term to ourselves. Therefore our shortcomings can always be attributed to it, whereas they’ve always worked hard and dealt with tasks they didn’t want to do but eventually came out successful at the other end, because they WANTED it enough.

    I’ve been suffering from this “laziness” my whole life, and it hurts every day to think about all of the things I could be doing if I just received the proper treatment. All I know is that unless I have a very specific set of stimuli to interact with, my mind is foggy and very easily overwhelmed by everything else my environment requires me to do.

    Even if we were to find out in years to come that ADHD stems more from behavioral as opposed to neurological abnormalities, it’s still something that should be considered as treatable by a medical professional. There is a reason I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. I may not know exactly what it is, but it’s obviously not something I can fix with my own willpower or by “wanting it enough.”

    1. Thank you, Francesca.

      Your heartfelt comment speaks for many. And, it also speaks back to this increasingly prevailing myth that ADHD is primarily a “behavioral” disorder.

      Setting up “rewards and punishments” for a child or an adult with ADHD can go only so far.

      Unfortunately, some psychologists who put a little too much faith in the extent of their field, are bound and determined to show that “behavioral” strategies work better than medical ones. Despite all neuroscientific evidence to the contrary.

      These psychologists, who claim to be ADHD experts, are actually echoing the ADHD deniers among the public, by pitching ADHD as having to do with behavior and not with complex neurobiology that also has physical fallout in a variety of ways.

      Thank you for making this point so eloquently.


  5. I have seen many cases in which students diagnosed with ADHD were told that college was beyond their grasp; albeit, they often got through it with the right help.

  6. I would agree that #11 strikes a nerve. There are some people that want to hold onto the idea that it is an excuse. If I can give any solace to Ron it’s that after coming to my own sense of peace with the diagnosis that the dynamic really changed in my marriage. I have a firm sense that those labels are not who I be. Well, that and medicine really helped my not dig in nearly as much.

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